Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
Oct 5, 2019 (updated Oct 6, 2019)
96
Warning: this is a long ass review

"The songs on the first album are the children. The songs on the second album are their parents. Ghosteen is a migrating spirit."

Ghosteen, man...I am absolutely stunned. It's fascinating to see that even in the darkest, most devastating, hopeless and troublesome of situations where your mind is in complete grief, agony and your soul has nowhere to go, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. In the case of Nick Cave, the pain endured from the tragic loss of a son remains forever, but learning to love again and seeing the existential beauty of it all is what keeps everything in motion. Not everyone gets that experience. Some people are stuck with where they are, wandering around with lost souls. Ghosteen is a moment for Nick Cave to recuperate, to reconciliate with his inner spirits and demons. It's the kind of album that stops you in your tracks, leaving you feeling like a whole new, different person than the moment you first walk into it, and it's remarkably beautiful.

That's basically the gist of it, but for such a work of beauty that is Ghosteen, I think it deserves to be talked about in much greater detail, so here's my two cents...

Ever had those little moments where you look at yourself in the mirror? Sometimes, you might just wonder to yourself, "who am I?" "Who is this soul on the other side of my reflection?" "Does it truly understand me?" "How do I speak to it?" We think we understand ourselves really well through general knowledge, but do we actually understand who we truly are? That's something that's been rotting in my mind for a while now, and I can't help to think about it from time to time, espcecially when listening to albums like Ghosteen, that almost goes head-to-head with these thoughts. What is my actual purpose to be living? Who is the soul within me, and what will happen to it when I'm gone? The idea of a soul, a living being that lurks within all of us, remains a mystery for as long as we live. I'd like to say that I'm doing fine mentally and physically, but it's thoughts like these that make me an emotional wreck when I'm alone or in the most random of situations.

Life is precious, a fragile piece within us all. You don't always realize it, but once it's taken away from you, you never get it back. The soul that you see everyday in the reflection of your mirror is something to take good care of and appreciate. Cause at any moment, the Grim Reaper can come knocking at your door, indicating that your time is over, and that could be any moment. Losing someone you loved so dearly is...incredibly painful, to say the least. The Grim Reaper doesn't play nice. By taking away the piece of your memory, love and affection of that one person in your life you had your heart out to, you find yourself in a hole, impossible to fill. It's as if a piece of your soul had been taken away, and in such a devastating event, you're now just a lost wandering soul, that no one truly understands. You're trapped, stuck with nowhere to go. It's not the end of your life, but is it the end of the journey? Will you simply be forever buried in overwhelming grief, pain and sorrow? Is it impossible to overcome this giant brick wall that you've hit?

Ghosteen says no. This is not the end. This is merely a new beginning. A chance to redeem your corrupted, devastated soul. A chance to take it slow, to take a moment and recognize the beauty. To move forward, accept and live with the reality, and to find yourself once again in this quickly evolving world that we can call home. You are not the same person as you were before, but that's ok. There are people around you that understand, who can feel the same pain you've gone through. There's a big wound in your chest that you can't get rid of, but the important thing is to protect it, to prevent infection and further suffering.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds had left off this new leg of their career with Skeleton Tree back in 2016. What was originally going to be a trilogy of albums starting with Push The Sky Away in 2013, Nick Cave found himself hitting a giant obstacle and crashing down in a roller coaster of emotional and mental wreck after his son met an unexpected fate. Nick Cave was ultimately torn up from his insides. Unable to find a balance and sinking into the lowest point in his life, he finished the Skeleton Tree album, and his words and feelings were more powerful than ever before. Skeleton Tree was an album full of pure, agonizing pain. The kind of pain that sticks around like a cancer, killing you from inside without you always noticing. Beautiful in the wrong ways, it's an album trapped in a cold dark room with no light.

Ghosteen, on the other hand, sets a different mood and tone than its predecessor, but ultimately serves as a thrilling, fantastical, marvellous sequel where the light shines through again. After being trapped in a dark room for years, a ray of light takes you forward into a magical, fantasy-like world. It's a world of inner peace where the soul wanders freely again, in a new world. As for the album itself, the change in direction that Nick Cave takes with Ghosteen is brilliantly executed and put-together, and it's a new avenue that Nick Cave had previously left unexplored. Skeleton Tree had a more drone, rock sound. Meanwhile, the two parts of Ghosteen is a beautiful transition into some dreamy, ethereal, chamber and ambient pop. One side, referred to as "the children" is an intriguing slower side to the Ghosteen concept and sound, with a lot of stunning musical passages and room to breathe. In comparison to Skeleton Tree, Ghosteen, specifically this side of Ghosteen is a lot more meditative, less overwhelming, but equally haunting. Meanwhile, the second side, "the parents" of Ghosteen is a lot more long-winded with more spoken word passages and a noticeable change in the overall atmosphere. It feels more lyrically and soncially dense. In terms of songwriting, his strongest element, Nick Cave continues to deliver comforting and emotionally potent lyricism that could leave you shedding in tears.

Ghosteen serves as a more comforting, stunning and elegant experience in comparison to Skeleton Tree, but it's no less powerful and emotionally crushing. In fact, in some ways, I think Ghosteen is a much more emotionally constructued and impactful record, since it's less about the pain or the loss and more about taking a step into reality and growing as a person/soul. On Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave's vocal performances and delivery were a cry for help filled with pain. On Ghosteen, Nick Cave's cries are, in some way, heartwarming cries. It's the kind of cries where you look up into the sky and scream your lungs out for the spirits to hear. It's as if Nick Cave, through the power of words and music, is communicating to his lost son from afar, that he loves him and everything was going to be fine. Through all of Nick's imperfections as a vocalist, there's something truly stunning on Ghosteen about the little details in his moans, cries and mumbles.

Ghosteen is not just an album, it's a poetic, out-of-world experience! There's rarely a moment on Ghosteen that feels out of place or unnecessary. Nearly every piece of the puzzle fits together into a colossal emotional meditation. Every minor detail or moment is a part of the Ghosteen story and feel. It's clear that with every building block, there's always something to look into and digest. It's a carefully crafted musical piece that serves as possibly Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' most immersive, beautiful and powerful album in their discography! It's really something to admire.

But before I end off this review, here's a couple of other thoughts I had been reminded of (Caution: minor spoilers ahead)...

In Studio Ghibli's film Spritied Away, there's this one scene towards the end of the film where our main protagonist Chihiro leaves the spirit bathhouse to return a stolen prized possession to the witch Zeniba. Her only way of getting there was by taking the spirit train, which ran only one way. No-Face found his way out of the corrupted bathhouse and follows Chihiro to the spirit train. The film, after having gone through one of the most chaotic scenes, takes a breath of air where nothing relevant to the plot goes on for a calming 2-3 minutes. Instead, it's just a slow scene with stunning music and animation as we simply watch our characters sit on the train, with Chihiro looking ahead into the distance in silence. This scene is famously known as "The train scene", and it's one of the most fascinating moments in film. Watching all the mini events unfold as the dark, shadowy spirits get off the train at their stops, you begin to wonder just who these figures are and what they represent. There's an odd feeling that tumbles around in your mind about these walking silhouettes. Are they lost souls? Do they know where to go? Where is the spirit train taking them, and are they going into a resting place? The film catches up with us and there's this sense of pure calmness and beauty as we just watch our characters, after going through all the shit they went through, sit in silence.

I get a very similar melancholic and supernatural feeling when listening to Ghosteen. After all the emotional chaos that was Skeleton Tree, it seems as if everything has finally catched up and there's this odd sense of calmness. There may not be much going on, but it's still a hard to digest experience. As beautiful as Ghosteen may be, it does place so strangely after Skeleton Tree that something feels oddly supernatural. It connects Skeleton Tree together effortlessly, but it's one strange album with moments that give me goosebumps and chills, and it's just very hard to explain why. Is this really the meditation he was looking for after Skeleton Tree?
14 Comments
Oct 5, 2019
Review continued in comments:

There's also Radiohead's "Daydreaming" music video that pops up suddenly in my mind from time to time. As one of my favorite music videos of all time, it's a video that fits so strangely well with the music itself. Not only is it a beautiful visual piece, but it's a very powerful one. One that is expressed through the few cold emotions of a worn out Thom Yorke as he walks from room to room, opening doors. Door by door, the music progresses. Door by door, Thom...
Oct 5, 2019
...Yorke just walks through the room in complete focus, unaware of the events going on around him. He's isolated himself completely, and towards the end, there's no one around him anymore. He climbs snowy hills and winds up in a dark cave beside a fire all alone in the dark. The video is definitely a very moody one with not much brightness to it, but as the video progresses, the video gets darker and darker, until finally, Thom Yorke ends up in that dark little cave in the middle of nowhere.
Oct 5, 2019
With Ghosteen, I get the feeling that every little moment in the album and every little change instrumentally and lyrically is like an opening of a new door. But instead of getting further and further into a dark hole like Yorke, Cave is journeying out of it, and as he continues, there's more light in the distance. After losing his sense of direction and affection on Skeleton Tree, step-by-step, he finds his way out of the dark cave. He finds a balance. There are new doors to open, and with...
Oct 5, 2019
each door, a piece of his lost soul returns.

There is hope. There may be peace at last.
Oct 5, 2019
It's hard to really digest Ghosteen in just a span of a few hours or days, but for what it is, it's truly stunning and fantastic. Ghosteen is powerful in its own unique ways, and as an addition to Nick Cave's discography, it serves as a very important, essential one. Life can be a bitch and finding your place again in a world that's been tearing you apart may only make you more powerful in the end. To us, it may just be an album, but to Nick Cave, it's a meditative safe place.
Oct 5, 2019
The soul and spirit wanders around once again in the light, out of darkness' reach.

“Don’t forget who you are, don’t forget your name.”

FAV TRACKS: bruh i spent hours trying to make a proper ghosteen review. it's ghosteen ffs. my brain doesn't work anymore

LEAST FAV TRACK: Leviathan (If I actually had to pick one)

Oct 5, 2019
you snapped sis ­čś│
Oct 5, 2019
why am I crying???? dude, this is probably your best review. damn... I am so happy it got this many likes that quick!!!!
Oct 5, 2019
never has a review ever made me feel this much emotion.
Oct 6, 2019
I envy you, honestly. You and your writing abilities.
Oct 6, 2019
kudos for the longest review on AOTY ever
Oct 6, 2019
chihiro probably wouldn't vibe with this. she's more of a drainer than anything else.
Oct 6, 2019
@pouls educate me more on ghibli-core. I ain't a master like you.
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